Saturday, 31 August 2013


For the past two nights I have slept fitfully, not poorly, just fitfully; and I have woken at seven without a trace of sleep in my body or brain. Have I become a dreaded morning person? Whatever the reason, I have taken the time to move myself to a café where I have spent hours reading and writing, and I have come to the realization (once again) that creativity satisfies some deep longing in my soul. I am most happy when I have written something down. Here is a line with which I am particularly pleased:

"The music changed, violins altering their mellow tones into something sharper, parting the crowds into performer and audience like a surgeon peeling back the skin to reveal the constructs of their social order, the bones, the taut ligaments, the pulpy, beating mass of their affiliations. Tight groups divided into tighter couples, men and women in rigid pose, shoulders straightened into perfect lines. The dance began slowly, the pairs turning, bowing, pulsing in riveting precision across the floor, fixed points alternating in an eternal, mechanical beauty."

This past week was terrible--I hovered on the verge of sickness with a headache that pressed behind my eyeballs like an enemy at the gate. I could accomplish nothing in the evenings as much as I tried, and I went to bed feeling incomplete. The headache seems finally to have lifted, though my unusually eager morning spirit has yet to dissipate. It is currently nine o'clock on a Sunday morning, and I am sitting at a café and working on my book.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


 My boss has the extraordinary ability to let me wear what I wish, granted that it is modest and vaguely professional. "As long as they learn," is how she counters my more bisarre ideas ("Can I come dressed as a pirate? How about a Jedi Knight?"), which I think is a very healthy way to go about things. Perhaps more leaders need to be like her--willing to change, to try something new, to approach the subject from a different angle. 

 One particular day I came dressed in stripes from top to toe.

My black and white striped pirate pants that I bought for ten dollars in Chinatown.

 Sometimes I wonder what she thinks of me, but mostly I'm just grateful.

Another Blue Dress

I bought this at a second hand store in Åland, Finland, and it is very much a teaching dress--light enough to float about me as I huff and puff up the four flights of stairs several times a day. As it is made of very thin cotton, it is perfect for Singapore weather that is still as hot as summer and not a breath closer to the rainy season.


Today I met this bird. I saw him trying to stand, clearly disoriented, and he had presumably flown straight into a window. He looked so small and vulnerable in the courtyard that I could not help but stop and stay by his side until he had recovered enough to take flight again. He was very confused, sitting perfectly still in my hand and staring at me with glazed, ruby red eyes. There was nary a flutter in his body. I watched his beautifully speckled feathers rise and fall with his breath, and I wondered what he thought of me--this giant with gentle hands--in that birdy brain of his. We sat together for a long time, he and I, until at last I reached out to touch his smooth back, and then the instinct pulled back over him, undid the daze, and with a smatter of wings he was gone, through the air, through the air.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Open House

The first official week of school is over. It started with a blue dress at Open House, progressed towards games and excitement and new students on the first day of school, and unfortunately ended in stomach cramps and cold sweats this Friday morn. I remember now that I do not like the first week of school, mostly because it is hectic, disorganized, and I have to pretend to be very, very stern for the sake of future classroom management. The students, as always, are a joy and I felt bad for dismissing myself abruptly from class this morning because I was about to vomit. The strangest thing of all, I think, is that it feels as if I have been working much, much longer than a week. I suspect it has something to do with the switch to block scheduling. Ah well, nothing a sense of style can't fix.

(P.S. My friend Ida gave me this dress, and I thought a public thank you was appropriate. Tack!)

Monday, 19 August 2013

Internal Conflict

Today my seventh graders discussed internal and external conflict within the context of The Avengers. They mentioned some of the internal conflict--Thor struggling with stopping his brother Loki, the Black Widow struggling with taking down her mind-controlled friend Hawkeye, Tony Stark seeing his own imminent death and choosing the sacrifice of the one for the good of the many. Then David Han raised his hand.
"And Captain America, he was sad because all his friends had died when he woke up after seventy years." He considers his own words. "Man, he must have had really bad breath."

John Bacchus

I have always had this imaginative understanding of England--I think that it is brimming with celebrities, overflowing with the highly talented, and that they must be, of course, of course, out and about in the streets and I could just turn a corner and walk right into Emma Thompson. This idea is somehow also related to my belief that English teachers are imbued with holy connections to the land of their namesake, on speaking terms with Kenneth Branagh, and why not Alan Rickman, for good measure.

As it is, I have recently finished a television series called Inspector George Gently, which is set in Durham in the 1960s and revolves around the amiable and determined Inspector George Gently and his restless sergeant John Bacchus. The episodes are well-written, exploring the tumultuous sixties and their social consequences in a world at a crossroads. My favorite character is John Bacchus--admittedly a disappointing character to like, proving time and again to be blatantly sexist, racist, classist, and misogynist, only too happy to indulge in prejudices against the people he meets. He is sometimes professional, though an excellent copper, and a terrible husband and father. I realize by now you think there is not much left to like, but I can only say that he is a redeemable character, which always intrigues me. Lee Ingleby does an excellent job of portraying a nuanced and enigmatic man demonstrating a growing awareness of his flaws, and he takes very small steps toward his necessary redemption. Hats off to the writers of that show.

I had been going on and on about this for the past few days to Natalie, who had never heard of it, and because we were in Durham, I pointed out that the final scenes of the last episode were shot in the cathedral. Now that I was here, in the very same city, I one evening found myself in the Market Pub with Natalie and Fran and his friends, and who should I meet but the man of the hour, Lee Ingleby himself. I have never been starstruck before, but I saw him and stopped completely in my tracks, staring rudely. I managed at last a "A-are you Lee Ingleby?"
He looked surprised. "Yes,  I am."
"I watch Inspector George Gently!" I held out my hand, and we shake. "I can't believe I'm meeting you!"
My heart was beating in my ear and I cannot recall precisely what I said, but I know for certain I gave him a rundown of all the movies he had ever participated in (again, he was surprised at the breadth of my pointless TV trivia) and he told me they were just wrapping up the series in Durham and had only a few more scenes to shoot. He also introduced me to his co-star Simon Hubbard who plays the henpecked PC Taylor.
I finally stammered out, "C-can I take a picture of you?"
He hesitated. "Will you be in it?"
"Oh, yes, yes," I countered quickly, trying to assure him I did not mean to take a picture 'of him' but 'with him.'
"Then of course."

Therefore my imagined England has proven true after all. It's chock-full of celebrities, just waiting to be found. Next time I'll be expecting cream tea with Tom Hiddleston. See you in London.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

It Figures

I was delighted to find a pair of shorts in H&M that were much longer than the average. You see, I'm rather tired of this barely-there trend where the edge of the shorts hardly covers your modesty, and you can imagine my excitement when I found a pair that were not only nice to look at but completely practical. I wasn't sure about the size and asked the lady if she could show me where the other pairs were kept. She pointed me to the men's department. Of course. I should have known.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


Today I finally finished painting the crossbeams in my room. I am only telling you now because the trial is over. Whilst I was suffering through the ordeal I was not absolutely sure I would survive balancing so precariously on a step ladder high above the floor. My poor shins and knees are bruised from the uncommon exercise, and I am generally tired but happy to have it over and done with. On the plus side, I have now cured my dislike of (falling from) heights.

This is me enjoying a hearty lunch at Tully's. The Rebel Shang says I look like I was attacked by an angry henna artist.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013


I had a wonderful summer, filled with adventure and travel and family. Saying goodbye and going away tears at some unknown nerve inside me. It's supposed to get easier, I think to myself, and know immediately I am completely wrong. I miss my cousins.

William pointing out a mosquito bite.

Thug life?

Shirt buddies

Amelia. One of the last things we did together was make rice krispie treats (because she insists I'm the best cousin for the job) and fix each others hair. That is what I will remember, when everything else fades away in the shuffle of all things ordinary: someone out there thinks I'm necessary to make things right.

The New Room

During my time in Sweden, I spent a significant amount of time in the Little House in the Big Woods, enjoying the peace and quiet with my family and watching several Beck movies in a row. Mamma and pappa have recently completely renovated the bedroom. It used to be completely white with textured wallpaper and an unbecoming bedspread. Now they have repainted the floor and put up a fresh, green wallpaper. A little hard work makes all the difference.

Mamma even repainted the white cupboard a cool shade of green. Her choices were so inspiring that my uncle (thus her brother) and his wife have decided to paint one of the walls green in the bedroom in their little summer cottage by the sea. It just goes to show that good ideas are contagious.

Monday, 5 August 2013

A Day at Hexham

Natalie had planned a trip to Hexham with fellows from her college, and Francis and I joined her. It was a gray and blustery day with the threat of rain, which the skies made good on whilst we were in the cathedral. We then stopped to listen and we heard the beating rain against the ancient bricks and shingles.

I may have gotten into a bit of trouble.

Nat in the market square in tiny Hexham. She bought some cheese, and that evening we feasted.

Ballerinas come to invite us to their show

Enjoying the catacombs

Father and daughter avoid the rain, together.


Alas, I am not to be married just yet. I did, however, join Natalie to look at dresses. We took the train to Morpeth, dressed to the nines (as was appropriate) and we had cream tea before shoving off to Darcy, a wedding store with a quiet showroom on the second floor. Unfortunately I cannot show you any of the pictures I took as they are a secret. So enjoy these instead.

I was most delighted to hear that Nat and Fran were to be churched. You see, I am usually not one to care all that much for wedding announcements. I see the notifications on Facebook and I hear of proposals and impending nuptials through the grapevine, but thus far I have remained stalwartly untouched. There is no way of saying it without seeming a bit cold or  unkind, but you mustn't judge me so. I think it is a common trait for those who have lived a mobile life--we do not invest ourselves lightly, and we do not rejoice with everyone at every occasion. Those saved well wishes I can finally bestow upon my dear, dear friend Natalie Jayne and her betrothed Francis. 

Dressing for the Dress

This is my blue skirt I had made. I wore it on our trip to Morpeth to look at wedding dresses with Natalie.

Natalie chose something slightly more practical. Here she is avoiding the mutant pigeon shuffling around underneath the bench. 

Very spiffy, I think.


My dear Natalie thinks she has no sense for fashion, but I declare her terribly self-deluded. She was impeccably dressed the days I visited, her outfits not just well put-together but creatively styled with a good mix of colour and texture and class. Wouldn't you think?
Look at this! Orange stockings! I tell you, no one with an ordinary imagination could have thought that up.

As for myself, I bought a owl blouse in a second hand store for three pounds, which I realized only later would go perfectly with my owl earrings I had purchased a week before whilst strolling the city streets of Singapore with Alicia. 

YOLO. (You oughtta love owls.)

Harlech Castle

I suppose no visit to Wales would be complete without a trip to a ruined fortress. Harlech Castle is known for housing Owen Glendower whom you will recognize from Henry IV, Part I, if you know your Shakespeare. He is of course a renown Welsh hero who captured Harlech Castle and used it as his base for his revolt against the English. In May 1404, Glendower called a Parliment wherein he declared himself the Prince of Wales; France and Scotland rallied behind him and he continued his plans to overthrow Henry IV. During the revolt, the rebels burned down Bangor cathedral, before the English gained the upperhand in 1409 and lay siege to the castle. The Welsh surrendered, thus ending the Welsh rebellion.

Francis, photobombing.

As we trailed along, the crows wheeled in the cold air above us, and one eventually flew overhead and pooped on Fran, much to his chagrin. 

Natalie was kind enough to clean it off.